What if we told you there are scheduling tools that could take all those hours you spend trying to sync calendars and arrange appointments and instead require only a couple of clicks?
The tedious back and forth communication and processes — comparing calendars to find a time suitable for all participants, finding the best place to meet, making sure everyone has the correct calendar invitation — can severely dent your productivity.
Making appointments and planning out times to meet should not be this hard. Fortunately, there are dozens of online scheduling tools and apps available to assist. All are easier than engaging in a seemingly endless game of email tag, but some are better than others. Here are our four favorites.
#1. FindTime for Outlook
The latest version of Microsoft Outlook comes with the option to add in a handy new scheduling feature: FindTime.
Essentially a beefed up version of the underutilized scheduling tool that’s always been in Outlook Calendar, FindTime will suggest meeting times based on your chosen attendees availability according to their calendars.
In addition to a snazzier appearance, the other new feature is the ability to send out polls. This allows you to invite meeting participants, within your company or elsewhere, to choose the meeting times they prefer. You can even have the app automatically schedule the most popular choice once all attendees have voted.
Doodle works best for coordinating teams of colleagues. With the app, you can set out time and date options for a meeting, and then poll a group to see what time slots work best for them — especially useful if you’re trying to coordinate a group of busy legal professionals who may be regularly in and out of the office!
Doodle’s scheduling feature is completely free (it’s ad-supported), but there’s an optional upgrade to a premium version that you can integrate with your Google, iCloud, or Outlook calendar. The paid version also sends out automatic meeting reminders for you and allows you to request additional information in your poll.
Calendly is a great solution if you receive a lot of meeting requests from people outside of your organization, like clients, and want to make the process less labor-intensive.
Calendly automates the scheduling process: You simply set up the time slots you’re available (there’s also an option to connect Calendly to Google Calendar or Office 365 and have it automatically update your availability) and send out your unique Calendly URL.
Recipients can then choose a time and date based on your availability. By default, the app will collect the name and email address of attendees, but you have the option to add additional questions and include a link to a document if you’d like attendees to review something before the meeting.
Updated: As of November 30, 2017 TimeBridge will be shutting down due to challenges maintaining service.
TimeBridge is a more business-focused solution that combines the features of FindTime/Doodle and Calendly in a single application.
First, TimeBridge lets you arrange meetings quickly. You can pick up to five possible time slots, enter the emails of your desired attendees, and hit send. The app lets recipients choose from “yes,” “no,” or “best.” It can then automatically choose the best time, arrange the calendar invite, and even send out reminders.
Second, TimeBridge can sync with your calendar (just Outlook and Google, for now) to create your personal scheduling tool. You get your own meetings URL that you can place on your website, in emails, etc. and let people choose the slot that’s best for them. There are dozens of extra features and personalization options too.
If you’re brand conscious, TimeBridge has added the ability to add your logo and tailor the appearance of meeting invites/scheduling pages to maintain a consistent look.
Remember, your clients’ needs come first
While these tools are convenient, you should be careful not to give the impression that your needs are superior to those of your client (i.e. they must choose when you’re available — even if that is the case!).
It’s easily solved by carefully choosing your words, though. Attorney and law firm marketer Andrew Cabasso suggests writing “let me know when works best for you” with a link to your scheduler as a way to soften the request. This, he says, is more welcoming than “here’s my calendar so you can set an appointment,” which feels more like a demand.
So, choose one of these apps, and liberate yourself today from the tedious back and forth of meeting and appointment scheduling.